The Airforce Institute of Technology (AFIT), which is the research and development arm of the Nigeria Airforce and the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) under the Presidency has taken up the challenge of completing all works on the first made-in-Nigeria helicopter.
The initiative by NASENI, as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, is set to be launched before the end of the PMB administration’s tenure in 2023.
Recently, to fast-track works on the project, President Buhari directed the relocation of the project from NASENI’s site in Abuja to AFIT in Kaduna.
The official handover of space and hangar (helipad), including the runway for test-flight of the helicopter located in the institute, took place yesterday (June 21, 2022) in Kaduna.
Buhari, who is chairman of the NASENI governing board, had directed NASENI to complete works on the helicopter project and make it ready for official launch before the expiration of his tenure in 2023.
In 2017, NASENI entered into a technical agreement with Dynali Helicopter Company in Belgium for the actualisation of the project before the latest directive by President Buhari that the project should be expanded to include collaboration with AFIT and the subsequent relocation of the project for its continuation at the air force institute in Kaduna.
While briefing the commandant of AFIT, the executive vice-chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, explained that part of the presidential directives was that all NASENI projects in aeronautics be relocated to AFIT and included in the collaborations between both institutions to ensure that both military science and knowledge by civilians be harnessed for the benefits of the larger Nigerian society going forward.
In his response, the commandant of AFIT, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Yakubu said the directive from President Muhammadu is a task both NASENI and AFIT must carry out with all the resources required to bring the dream to pass. “We are determined to collaborate to make the dream on the made-in-Nigeria helicopter become a reality.”
President Buhari’s directive also stated that AFIT shall provide space and helipad for the NASENI helicopter and relocate the project to AFIT for the collaboration of both institutions.
AVM Yakubu said the collaboration between NASENI and AFIT was the clincher collaboration to launch Nigeria into relevance in the world of aviation with the proposed involvement in aircraft design and development.
The high-capacity and manpower requirements, he said, made the AFIT recruit 10 experts in aeronautics.
The air force is on the verge of developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The AFIT has made progress in the design and manufacturing of air vehicles, stating further that the collaboration to produce the first made-in-Nigeria helicopter between both organisations was sacrosanct and, therefore, would be pursued with vigour.
According to the terms of the collaboration, some NASENI technical staff would be resident in AFIT for adequate interface to share knowledge and technical capacity.
A statement by NASENI’s deputy director, information, Mr. Olusegun Ayeoyenikan, said the hand-over ceremony took place and the following items – the hangar, office space and run-way – were handed over to the NASENI EVC. Upon completion, the helicopter will embark on a test flight.
The executive vice-chairman of NASENI, who was highly elated by the development, explained that the journey to seeing the NASENI first-made-in Nigeria helicopter is gradually coming to fruition.
Speaking to journalists, Haruna said the journey to produce the first made-in-Nigeria helicopter began in 2017 and is getting closer to being accomplished.